Love and Rockets: New Stories volume 7


By The Hernandez Brothers (Fantagraphics Books)
ISBN: 978-1-60699-770-3

Years pass like centuries when you’re waiting for a wonderful treat but at long last here’s the latest annual instalment of Love and Rockets: New Stories. So life is once more challengingly complete …

Now solidly in its fourth decade as a transcendent and transformative force shaking up the American comics industry, Love and Rockets was originally an anthology magazine featuring amongst other gems and joys the slick, intriguing, sci-fi-tinged hi-jinx of punky young things Maggie and Hopeylas Locas – and a series of heart-warming, gut-wrenching soap-opera epics set in a rural Central American paradise called Palomar.

The Hernandez Boys (three guys from Oxnard, California: Jaime, Gilberto and Mario), gifted synthesists all, captivated the comics cognoscenti with incredible stories sampling and referencing a host of influences – everything from comics, TV cartoons, masked wrestlers and the exotica of everything from American Hispanic pop culture to German Expressionism.

There was also a perpetual backdrop displaying the holy trinity of youth: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll – also alternative music, hip hop and punk.

The result was dynamite then and the guys have only got better with the passing years. Mario only officially contributed on rare occasions, but Jaime’s slick, enticing visual forays explored friendship and modern love by destroying stereotypes of feminine attraction through his fetching coterie of “Gals Gone Wild”, whilst bro Gilberto created a hyper-real and passionately poignant landscape and playground of wit and venality for his extended generational saga Heartbreak Soup: a quicksilver chimera of breadline Latin-American village life with a vibrant, funny and fantastically quotidian cast.

The shadows cast by Palomar still define and inform his latest tales both directly and as imaginative spurs for ostensibly unaffiliated stories.

Fully evolved into an annual omnibus compendium of wonders, Love and Rockets: New Stories features one-off vignettes supplementing a string of contiguous and continuing story strands, opening here with Beto’s ‘Killer in Palomar’.

After having apparently quitting her blossoming cinema career Doralis “Killer” Rivera headed back to Palomar to visit her distanced family. She was fleeing rumours of pregnancy and just wanted some peace and a normal life. At least that’s what she told herself…

Now she’s reeling from the horror of a deranged stalker-fan who murdered people in her name, but new friend Theo is more worried about her strange reaction to a copycat stripper/double appropriating her reputation to become a porn star. And to make things even more complicated Killer is chatting to dead Tia Doralís again…

Jaime then returns to his singularly aging signature characters as Maggie and Hopey ditch their significant others for a weekend to attend an Eighties-Friends reunion in ‘Do I Look at the Camera, Or Do I Look at Me?’

The devout pals and former lovers may have moved on, but there’s still some spark of the old wild couple in play – especially the constant bickering – and eventually the ladies at leisure settle on watching a movie Maggie’s boyfriend Ray recommended coincidentally  running at the Indie cinema that used to be the girls’ teenage hangout…

Metafiction and magical realism have always played a large part in the Hernandez Boy’s tales and as Maggie and Hopey settle in for a weird screen experience, elsewhere in time and space star of the film Maria Rodriguez is showing it to her baby daughter Fritz/Rosalba (for further details and family indiscretions best check out High Soft Lisp or Luba)…

Blending a bizarre B-movie fantasy with more telling insights into three generations of powerful and beautiful women, Gilberto’s story segues into Killer’s time as a toddler – and the mistakes all the women in her family seem condemned to repeat – before ‘Daughters and Mothers and Daughters’ flashes back to more revelations, inter-cut with her playing her own grandmother in scandalous biopic Maria M

Jaime’s vignette ‘You and Hopey’ focuses on poor abandoned Ray and how he spends his time as a weekend-widower, after which the artist switches track to follow frustrated teen wrestling hopefuls in ‘Our Lady of the Assassinating Angels’ before returning to Ray for ‘The Cody Pendant’ and an evening alone, coincidentally watching the same movie as Maggie and Hopey…

Beto steps in for a fantastic slice of hokey fantasy as ‘Magic Voyage of Aladdin’ offers an incredible genre mash-up with the legendary boy adventurer and his astoundingly pneumatic patron Circe battling witches, monsters, aliens and bat-people in three anarchic cine-plays, beginning with ‘Chapter 1: the Electrical Brain’ moving on to ‘Chapter 2: the Cave of Bats’ and calamitously concluding with ‘Chapter 3: the Living Corpse’

Jaime tags in to continue the travails of young Tonta Agajanian in ‘If It Ain’t Fixed, Don’t Break It!’ as the troublesome teen escapes her scandalous family (murdered step-father and her far-from-sane mother still prime suspect even after being cleared by DA’s office) for a comicbook party.

After another fine moment annoying the rich kids, Tonta and gullible associate Gomez suddenly find themselves pulled over by the cops…

The dirty doppelgangers poaching the reputation of Killer’s dynasty of sexy starlets make their unseemly entrances in Gilbert’s ‘Meet Fritz Jr.’ and unwittingly offer tantalising glimpses of unsuspected family connections, after which Jaime turns up the filmic fantasy dial with the hilariously scary sci fi classic ‘Princess Animus!’ wherein a beautiful cannibal gains the power to dominate the universe…

However when the film breaks at the best bit Maggie and Hopey are left at a loose end and unwisely head back to the motel early…

Beto closes down this annual affair (bracketing an untitled Jaime two-pager highlighting las Locas’ morning-after) with another outrageous grindhouse movie pastiche in ‘The Golem Suit Starring Killer’ before a painful day for Fritz and her copyright infringing facsimile meeting fans at a convention as ‘Talent’ wraps things up for another too-long wait until next time…

Warm-hearted, deceptively heart-wrenching, subtly shocking, challenging, charming and irresistibly addictive, Love and Rockets: New Stories is a grown up comics fan’s dream come true and remains as valid and groundbreaking as its earlier incarnations – the diamond point of the cutting edge of American graphic narrative.
© 2015 Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez. This edition © 2015 Fantagraphics Books. All rights reserved.